George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Hepburn & Dundas, 23 November 1799

To Hepburn & Dundas

Mount Vernon 23rd Novr 1799


Your letter of the 19th was recd yesterday.1 If my attendance at Mr Heiskill’s in Alexandria on the 26th could render you any real Service, I would do it with pleasure.

But all that I could relate would be hearsay whilst means exist, to obtain (I presume) positive proofs of the facts you wish to establish.2

With respect to the division of the tract, of (what you call) 51,302 acres, I am as ignorant as any man whom you might pick up, by chance in the Streets of Alexandria.

I believe, Mr Jno. West, deceased, was one of the Patentees in the large Survey at the Mo. of the Great Kanhawa; but to this fact I would give no positive evidence: for after being at the whole trouble, and the greater part of the expence to obtain a recognition of the original grant of 200,000 acres; and being compelled, very improperly I did think, and always have thought, to take it in twenty Surveys, the Governor and Council found themselves, by this act (which was protested against) under the necessity of jumbling a number of names into the same Patent, in order to give each claimant, according to his grade, & the ratio they had alloted him, the qty allowed—whereas, if the priviledge of locating that quantity, within the District which they had assigned for this purpose had been given to each Claimant, it would have prevented all the difficulties, and perplexities which have ensued; to the inconvenience of all, and entire loss of the Land, to some.

But thus the matter was ordered, by that body; after which, and the issuing of the Patents consequent thereof, my Agency ceased; and I have concerned myself with no other part of the Land than was assigned me, & such as I purchased thereafter of others.3

With respect to the division of the tract you alluded to, so far am I from knowing that it was made according to law, that I do not know it was ever made; and as to the issue of Mr Jno. West, I am entirely unacquainted, otherwise than by report; never having been in his house, that I recollect, more than once—and that 30 years ago—and 25 of which but little in this State.4 I am Gentn Your very Hble Servant

Go: Washington

ALS (letterpress copy), NN: Washington Papers.

William Hepburn and John Dundas were merchants in Alexandria.

1Letter not found.

2The request that GW go to Peter Heiskill’s place in Alexandria may have had to do with a piece of property on King Street in Alexandria which Heiskill purchased two months later. The line that divided this parcel of land from an adjoining one owned by John Dundas had been in dispute (Munson, Alexandria Hustings Court Deeds, 1797–1801, description begins James D. Munson, comp. Alexandria, Virginia: Alexandria Hustings Court Deeds, 1797–1801. Bowie, Md., 1991. description ends 169).

3In the first distribution of the 200,000 acres of land in the Ohio country set aside under Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation of 1754 for participants in the Great Meadows campaign, one of the patents issued by the Virginia council on 6 Nov. 1772 was for a tract of 51,382 acres to “George Muse, Andrew Lewis, Adam Stephen, Peter Hog, John West, [John] Polson, & Andrew Wagener” (Petition to Lord Dunmore and the Virginia Council, c.4 Nov. 1772, in Papers, Colonial Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Colonial Series. 10 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1983–95. description ends , 9:118–23; see also GW to Lord Dunmore and Council, c.3 Nov. 1773, ibid., 358–66).

4John West, Jr., was the fourth lieutenant in the Virginia Regiment of 1754, resigning his commission after the 1754 campaign. He died in 1777. GW spent the night of 17 April 1769 at West’s house in Alexandria (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 2:141).

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